"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Friday, May 24, 2024

The Salem Witch Trials Redux - Burning At The Stake Was Too Good For The Banger Sisters

The Salem Witch Trials lasted only for a year between 1692-93 but have remained bright in the nation's consciousness ever since.  Especially in this Age of Women, MeToo, and rage at the persistence of patriarchy and misogyny, women are still outraged that those events could have occurred. On the other hand, thousands of men married to hectoring, nasty wives have no problem with them at all. 

Of course divorce being the no-fault, easy, brushing-a-fly-off-the-meat affair that it has become, such extreme measures are rarely resorted to; and most women, however troublesome and irritating they might be, are not the screeching harridans burned at the stake in Massachusetts. 

Except for the Banger sisters, two women who had lived together in a Long Island mansion overlooking the Sound - two predatory, misandrous, hateful women who despite their beauty and potently alluring sexuality, had been solely and uniquely responsible for the destruction of men from Baton Rouge to Sandy Hook. 

The Banger sisters were born into wealth and privilege in Boston - their lineage could be traced to the earliest English settlements in New England, the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and the missions of John Davenport - and they were the prizes of Beacon Hill.  Both Hepzibah and Esther were sought after by the sons of the finest families, young men of wealth, promise, looks, and opportunity. 

Sought after in principle and at first; but both sisters, despite their outward appeal, were nasty, brutish, ugly souls.  They were hard-bitten, their personalities crimped and crabbed, and their obvious hatred of men barely hidden. 

There was no nurturing at fault for these awful personalities. Their father was a model parent, caring, solicitous, and nurturing.  He wanted nothing but the best for his daughters and saw to it that their upbringing, education, and introduction to society were ideal. Their mother, Ophelia was no different, caring in a very feminine, motherly way, full of love and affection, and proud of the two little girls she had carried.  

Despite this obvious love and kindness, the two girls were nasty, obstreperous, and mean from the day they took their first steps.  The reciprocated no love and answered every kind gesture with a harsh, deliberately hateful one.  Every nanny, maid, and housekeeper left the Banger household within months of their employment, in tears.  They had never in their entire lives, each said, been subjected to such scorn, bitterness, and horrible insults. 

The sisters should have been the envy of all the girls at school, such was the family pedigree and reputation in a very class-conscious Boston, and such was their stunning beauty - sky-blue eyes, flaxen hair, flawless skin, and a perfect smile.  Yet they were dismissive of every comer, sent away in tears like the household staff.  Both sisters seemed to have a preternatural sense of the weakness of others, and honed in on it with stiletto accuracy. 

There was no reason for such misanthropy - nothing in house, hearth, or home to suggest a reason for such emotional terror. 

'Salem', the rumor went.  'It has to be Salem'. 

Although the Bangers did indeed have their roots in that North Shore town of horrific history; and indeed were descended both from the prosecutors and the supposed witches, such ideas of a bloodline legacy were pure fancy. 

Of course Nathaniel Hawthorne thought differently and in The House of the Seven Gables he is quite explicit about the murderous legacy of the Pynchon family and how its descendants were heir to it.  In a story both fabulist and realistic, he concludes what everyone knows but is unwilling to believe - the sins of the fathers is a matter of blood. 


So it is possible that the Banger sisters inherited the very worst of Rachel Adams, their distant but direct cousin who was accused, tried, and burned at the stake for witchcraft.  The historical records kept by her Puritan prosecutors describe a hateful woman suspected of the murder of her husband, children and father; a spiteful, unrepentant, devilish woman who spat curses as the flames consumed her. 

Despite revisionist, feminist historians who continue to insist that the actions - real and alleged - of Rachel Adams were a result of misogyny and a harsh patriarchy, most other observers, like Hawthorne, agree that she was simply a bad seed.  Perhaps not possessed by the Devil as her prosecutors insisted, but given a rare genetic disposition for hateful meanness. 

Each of the Banger sisters chose law as their profession, and no line of work could have been more appropriate.  Hepzibah in New York and Esther in Washington were angels of death, brutal and avenging in their cross-examinations, castrating and murderous, unstoppable and fearsome.  

The law of course lionizes women like the Banger sisters.  There is no compassion, mercy, or special consideration in the application of the law.  The courtroom is only about winning and losing, and the Banger sisters never lost. 

Far from Boston and Salem, the same rumors persisted.  There was indeed something special about the sisters, some fearsome quality rarely ever seen.  Some were impressed.  Nietzsche for all his ramblings in Zarathustra was right - there are indeed Supermen, Übermensch, soulless, frightening individuals for whom the expression of pure will is the only validation of the individual. 

Others more Biblically trained, assumed that predictions of Satan's reign were not overstated. These post-Augustinian clerics were convinced that evil did exist in the world and that Beelzebub was alive and well. Most others wanted only to steer clear of this harridan, this reminder of what human nature was really like. 

Needless to say the Banger sisters never married and never once even considered the possibility.  What would they do with emotional weaklings who had come calling their whole lives?  These ignoramuses, these challenged and retarded idiots who had the temerity to approach them. 

So infamous were they that historians, psychiatrists, and forensic philosophers all wanted access to them.  Were they anomalies in the human condition or inevitable expressions of it?  Was it Nature or Nurture which made them this way? How could femininity have gone so much awry? Was the Catholic Church on to something with its exorcisms?

The Banger Sisters' mansion was a military redoubt - a fortress more impenetrable than any medieval castle. Everything about it said 'Keep Out!, and rumors swirled in Piping Rock and the privileged communities nearby that the sisters were not even in there.  It was all a charade like everything else in their lives, a mysterious fantasy, a fiction. 

In fact whether the Banger Sisters were ever residents of the mansion or not, they completely disappeared without a trace - not one scintilla of evidence that they were still alive and well. 

'They lived, and that was quite enough', said one Banger victim. 'They should have been burned at the stake while we had the chance.' 

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